Tropical storm warnings are currently in place for Dry Tortugas and Bonita Beach, Florida, to Suwannee River, Florida.
At 1 p.m. Wednesday, the storm was 115 miles southwest of Tampa, and moving to the north-northeast at 10 mph. Eta likely peaked in intensity Wednesday morning, but will still be a strong tropical storm when it makes landfall north of Tampa early Thursday, the hurricane center said.
Eta is already bringing heavy rain along the west coast of Florida and tornadoes are also possible as the outer bands of Eta continue to move onshore. The Storm Prediction Center has issued a Tornado Watch that lasts through the afternoon and includes Tampa and Fort Myers.
In addition to tropical-storm-force winds and gusts up to hurricane force, much of western and central Florida will receive 2 to 6 inches of rainfall through Thursday.
The onshore push from the winds will result in 2 to 5 feet of storm surge along much of Florida’s west coast, including the very vulnerable Tampa Bay area.
Subtropical Storm Theta sets a record
Meanwhile, Subtropical Storm Theta formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday night, making 2020 the most active hurricane season on record with 29 storms so far.
And with weeks to go until the official end of the Atlantic hurricane season, yet another storm looks to be forming south of Puerto Rico, the NHC said, and there’s a 80% chance it will become the 30th named storm, breaking Theta’s brand-new record.
“A tropical depression is likely to form late this week or this weekend when the wave reaches the central or western Caribbean Sea,” the agency said.
This is the latest in hurricane season that two named storms have been active at the same time in the Atlantic since 1932. And Eta is the 12th named storm to make landfall along the US this season, breaking the previous record of nine set in 1916.
CNN’s Dave Hennen contributed to this report.